Gagnon puts her all-around ski skills to the test in pursuit of Olympic medal

Gagnon puts her all-around ski skills to the test in pursuit of Olympic medal

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Marie-Michele Gagnon has to trust her plan and her talent.

The 28-year-old from Lac-Etchemin, Que., wants to ski fast in two very different races to win a medal in February’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Gagnon is a slalom specialist who kept a toe in the speed events of downhill and super giant slalom throughout her career.

A regular podium contender in slalom and proficient enough in speed races, the best results of Gagnon’s career have come in alpine combined.

The “Super Combined” is a speed race of either super-G or downhill followed by a slalom the following day.

The fastest aggregate time determines the winner, so the combined is a test of a skier’s all-around ability.

Gagnon won World Cup gold medals in 2016 and 2014 and placed sixth at this year’s world championship in the combined.

Her slalom credentials established, Gagnon is putting more time and energy into downhill racing this season to improve her chances at an Olympic medal in the combined.

The speed leg of the combined in Pyeongchang will be a downhill.

The switch is a labour of love for Gagnon. She made the Canadian team a decade ago on the strength of her results in super-G before gravitating to slalom and giant slalom.

“It’s what I really love to do,” Gagnon said. “Super-G I would say comes pretty naturally for me.

“Downhill needs some work. Every day until the Olympics is a training day, even though it is racing and I am going to do my best that I can do. It is ultimately towards Korea and the combined.”

Gagnon will race a World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alta., on Friday for the first time in her career. She’s competed in super-G at the Alberta resort before with her best result 10th in 2013.

Wednesday’s training run was cancelled due to soft course conditions, but another is scheduled for Thursday.

There are few all-rounders in ski racing as most specialize in either technical or speed disciplines.

American ski stars Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and Michelle Gisin, as well as Michaela Kirchgasser of Austria are among the few who excel in both carving and gliding.

If Gagnon can win a medal in combined in Pyeongchang, she may be among the last to do so. The world governing body is considering phasing out the combined at major international competitions.

“It’s pretty sad they’re going to get rid of it,” Gagnon said.

In the meantime, it’s not unusual for Gagnon to train downhill and slalom on the same day. Getting enough reps to feel confident in both will be her challenge this winter.

“You want to learn to be confident with not so much training in each discipline,” Canadian women’s team coach Manuel Gamper said. “You want to learn to switch quick from the long skis to the short skis.

“Her weekly program is full. What helps is she’s physically very fit. I know I can put her in a physically challenging program.”

Gagnon wants to avoid the trap of worrying her slalom skills are eroding while she’s training and racing downhills, and vice versa.

“My progression is towards Korea, I know how to race and I’ve done this for a long time, so just to not get into that grind and thinking ‘oh my god, I can’t believe the slalom is gone,’” she explained.

“It’s going to come back, so not be so hard on myself.”

Gagnon has an ally in her renewed focus on the speed disciplines. Her boyfriend Travis Ganong is a downhiller on the U.S. men’s team.

When they were at the same training camp this past summer in La Parva, Chile, Ganong analyzed video of Gagnon’s training sessions and gave her tips.

“I think she’s going to surprise a lot of people,” Ganong said. “She’s fast.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read